When thinking of some of the all-time greatest sports dynasty’s, the Edmonton Oilers of the 80’s are right up there. The team was comprised of many of the same individuals for all 5 Stanley Cup victories in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990. With all-time greats such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Glenn Anderson it easy to understand why they did so well. But with any sport it’s not just the greats that win those Championships it’s the entire team that works together to win. One such member that made those teams great was Dr. Randy Gregg. Randy was an extremely dependable defencemen for all 5 of those Stanley Cups and ranks fourth all time in playoff plus/minus at a +71 in only 137 games! Not only was Randy an excellent hockey player he also became a doctor who still practices medicine in Edmonton today. Legend Rings had the opportunity to sit down with Randy and discuss his career and many Championship Rings.
Dr. Gregg’s career began at the University of Alberta where he played defence for the Golden Bears for 4 seasons and won two National Championships. When asking Randy what the best moment of his professional sports career was, he singled out something very symbolic and unique, “Probably when I was in my first year on the Golden Bears hockey team – they gave out the team jackets. I thought at that point that I’ve made it. I had so much respect for the team and that jacket I wore it only once because I didn’t want to get it dirty!” Randy still has that jacket to this day and shares the same respect for it as he did when he was 19 years old. Beyond his time at the University of Alberta Randy also mentioned winning the Five Stanley Cups as great moments along with playing in the Olympics, “The Olympics games were special because we weren’t paid, we were there because of the passion and pride we had for our country.”
Randy’s career both on and off the ice was very much about following his heart. In 1979 he was offered a two-year $100,000/year contract with a large signing bonus by the New York Rangers. This came as quite a surprise to Randy as he wasn’t confident that he was ready for the NHL. He met with the Rangers and eventually turned down their offer as the opportunity to play in the 1980 Olympics presented itself, “It wasn’t hard to turn down a lot of money because fortunately getting an education allows you to have confidence, so I could pick and choose the type of career I wanted to have in hockey.”
After the Olympics and spending some time in Japan playing hockey, he returned home in the spring of 1982 where three teams were waiting with contract offers. The New York Rangers, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers were all hoping to add young defenceman. Randy again followed his heart and turned down more money from the Flames and signed with the hometown Oilers. With the ink still fresh on his contract he was playing in the playoffs paired with Paul Coffey just a few days later. Unfortunately the Oilers lost that series but great things were coming.
Randy would go on to win 5 Stanley Cups and receive a Championship Ring for each one. Each ring was unique and designed by the team captain and his assistants after the season. These rings would be presented at the first game of the following season when the Stanley Cup banner was raised. “The rings were very special, they solidified the legacy we built.” Each player received identical rings with their name and number on it. Management, coaches, trainers, owners and staff also received versions of the rings as well. The players were so excited to get their rings, not because of the diamonds and jewels but because of what they symbolized, “It could have been a piece of aluminum and none of us would have know better, I didn’t care about diamonds or gold – I just wanted something to show me I was a part of it.” A unique feature on the Oilers rings is a carrot with a bite out of it, “It was Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe’s idea, they wanted that on the ring as a symbol of the rabbit finally catching the carrot. The running joke was that after 1990 there were no more bites left of the carrot and that’s why we stopped winning.”
We asked Randy if the 7 Championships were enough and if he always wanted more, he said “I always tell my kids 70% on a math test is pretty good but why settle for that when you can get 80% or 90% or 100%. I was fortunate that the Golden Bears and Oilers were such high achieving teams that winning 5 out of 6 games wasn’t enough, if you can win 5 why not 6.” Randy’s passion carried over to the only other NHL team he played for, the Vancouver Canucks. Prior to the season Head Coach Pat Quinn stated their goal was to only make the playoffs in his first season, “I just about fell off my chair, our goal should be to win the Stanley Cup every year – not just make the playoffs.” He acknowledged that the Canucks were a young team and that winning the Stanley Cup that season may not have been a realistic goal, but having that passion to win was key and it’s what leads you to Championships. Throughout his playing career Randy though winning was a given as he had so much success, but looking back on it now he realizes just how special what he achieved was.
When reminiscing about winning, Randy indicated that his first Stanley Cup ring in 1984 was the most special to him. He mentioned that the rings carried a significant importance not only after receiving them but also through the season leading up to the Stanley Cup. “Guys wanted the ring, it was symbolic of winning for us. Many of our players could afford to buy hundreds of these rings, but could only earn one for winning.”
Dr.Gregg’s career was an exceptional one, we can all learn not only from his passion but following our hearts, as he did. Whether it’s a jersey, jacket or Championship Ring, it’s important to remember the special moments we gain from sports in our life – these moments will end up being some of the best and most triumphant memories we have. Thank you Randy for taking the time to meet with us, you’re an amazing representative of sport and define the word Champion.